So much of photography is built on social relationships. Models, makeup artists, hair stylists, designers, and assistants all play a crucial role in contributing to the creation of an image. At the center of the photographer's work is the model, yet photographers may find it difficult to reach out to modeling agencies for collaboration. This article will describe some best practices to start and maintain relationships with modeling agencies and their models that may enable you to further develop your portfolio.
It can be intimidating for new photographers to approach models for collaboration, but there are several online resources to help with that initial nudge. Before you feel comfortable reaching out to modeling agencies, it makes sense to use sites such as Model Mayhem, Facebook, and Instagram to start finding models who want to build their portfolios. When you’re ready to start building a professional portfolio though, you’ll want to start working with professional models, which can generally be accessed through modeling agencies.
Sections of models will be located in different areas of modeling agency websites. You will generally find a "new faces" tab on these sites, describing new models looking to expand and update their portfolio. In some ways, they may be in the same boat as you. These models will be the most accessible for test photoshoots (unpaid shoots that are for the purpose of portfolio building). On the other hand, models on the main pages of the agency site, who have developed portfolios and are likely already booking paid work, will be more difficult to book for test shoots.
When reaching out to agencies, it is best to start with an email that clearly, concisely states your intention. Keep in mind that photographers looking to test email agencies all the time. Remember to be detailed, concise, and polite. Let's look at some well-written emails from professional photographers to modeling agencies to see what we can learn.
Example 1 - Written by U.K. Beauty Photographer Tina Eisen
Example 2 - Written by L.A. Fashion Photographer Rudy Bonifaz
From these two examples written by professional photographers we can begin to put together a list of important elements of a well-written email.
Deconstructing These Emails
- Introduction and self-pitch
- References to your work
- Your team
- Specifics and purpose of email (your request)
- Mood board
- Ending note
Before making contact, you should know why you are reaching out to a particular agency. That is to say, are you about to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship for yourself and the agency? Make sure that your photography will match the aesthetic of the agency. Photographer and assistant booker at Found Model Management, Gail Shamon, took some time to talk with me about her experience with photographers reaching out to her agency to test, “As a booker, I always appreciate good shooters who make a point to specifically address the needs of the agency and the needs of newer models who’s books need further development.”
Once you’ve found the right agency, and the agency agrees to a test shoot, they’ll more than likely send you a PDF package, which generally includes about six models. When you’ve selected the model who best fits your vision, ask if they’re available.
Once you have a model you want to work with, it's a good idea to start with the model release form, which ensures you are able to legally publish images of your model on your website, blog, or for any marketing materials. It's a good practice to always carry release forms in a folder in a bag you take to a photoshoot. You can find several free model release templates online to download and print. Once signed, for added security, you can scan the form and save in the cloud (Google Docs, Dropbox, etc.). Or, if you're looking to save paper, free apps provide model releases with e-signature options.
Your relationship with the modeling agency doesn't end after the shoot. If you want to continue a relationship, make sure to deliver the final edited images (or images to select edits from) to your original contact at the agency. Remember best practices here: show your appreciation; be thankful. As your relationship with an agency grows, you will be able to access more experienced models, who will help you develop your vision as well as your portfolio. Practicing with these tips in mind will help you do just that.